RAJ Singh, the man at the helm when Darlington crumbled in 2012, is hoping to return to the club.

In a move that will shock fans, the Teesside businessman is in talks with Quakers and has already agreed to put £40,000 into the club.

Supporters will be asked for their approval on the return of what remains a controversial figure due to his role in Darlington’s demise five years ago, a time when the club went into administration and had to effectively start again in the Northern League.

Singh first became Darlington chairman since 2009, in charge when the club suffered relegation from the Football League a year later, and he then put the club into administration midway through 2011-12.

However, his period as chairman did include Quakers’ win at Wembley in 2011 in the FA Trophy final.

John Tempest, Darlington director, said: “It is inevitable that it will take time to fully understand the implications of bringing in private investment, and in particular to ensure that the fan-owned model is able to sit alongside private investment. We are now in a position to announce that Raj Singh is one of the individuals who is looking to help the club move forward with the potential for longer term investment.

“In the meantime, however, it is crucial that we try and operate the business as usual and allow Martin Gray the best opportunity to shape his squad for the coming season. With this in mind, Raj Singh has offered to immediately invest a £40,000 contribution towards the 2017-18 playing budget.”

Gray announced at a fans’ forum last month that he had been speaking to two potential investors as he felt the club could progress no further without private investment.

Quakers have won three promotions in five years, and could have had a fourth had they been allowed to participate in the play-offs this season.

However, they were ineligible as they did not have enough covered seating at their Blackwell Meadows home.

Gray believes the error highlighted the limitations of a fan-owned club, while he also points to the finances required to compete at the top end of the National League North as being a factor in his decision to seek outside investment.

Next season there will be at least five full-time clubs in Darlington’s division: Kidderminster Harriers, Harrogate Town, Salford City, Nuneaton Town and York City.

Singh said: “I saw the shortfall that Martin was asked to take regarding the playing budget for next season and I was keen to help maintain the momentum he has built up over the last few seasons.”

Members of the Darlington FC Supporters Group (DFCSG), who hold a majority share in the club, are to be asked their opinion on Singh’s potential return.

Tempest explained: “Darlington FC will shortly be writing to all its shareholders to seek approval to allot shares in DFC to Raj Singh in return for his investment. In order to do this, DFC’s shareholders will have to formally approve a resolution with at least 75 per cent of those who vote being in favour of the proposal.

“Acquiring a shareholding of £40,000 is in accordance with the current Articles of Association, which limits the shareholding of an individual to 15 per cent of the total issued share capital.

“As you know, DFCSG owns more than 80 per cent of the voting rights in DFC, and so it will be asking its members how they wish to vote on the proposal. If you wish to have your say, then we encourage you to join the DFCSG if you are not already a member.”

Singh’s potential involvement will split fans’ opinion, with many unable to forgive him for his role in Darlington’s downfall in 2012.

Should his proposal be accepted, Darlington say Singh could eventually increase his number of shares.

The Northern Echo understands that he had initially hoped for a greater shareholding than 15 per cent, however, this would require a change in the constitution of club’s ownership model and the time required would have had a detrimental impact on Quakers’ plans for next season.

Tempest continued: “If DFC’s shareholders decide to accept Raj Singh’s offer to contribute to next season’s playing budget by acquiring £40,000 of equity in the club, he would then develop further proposals on how he would like to increase his (and potentially that of others) involvement, whilst taking into account the fact that we are a community owned football club.

“The board and DFCSG would liaise with Raj to understand his plans and the implications for the club going forward. The fact that Martin would be able to progress with his plans for next season, means that there would be time for plans for further involvement to progress at an appropriate pace.

“These budget plans would be made on the expectation that the fans’ contribution would be also be £40,000 and the current total of pledges in the ‘Boost The Budget’ fundraiser currently stands at £23,500 – so we still have a little bit of work to do.”

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